One of the most powerful premises in NLP and Neuro-Semantics is that our limitations are not real. That when a person feels limited, the limitation is an inside job. From the beginning, NLP has said that people are primarily limited by their maps, not by their reality. If a person is limited or feels limited, that limitation is almost always a function of some mental map that he or she is carrying around. As a result, this means that limitations are about as real as you believe they are real.

Now is that shocking? Surprising? Unbelievable? Well, let’s test it. A good way to test this is to look around at those individuals who have or had many of the same external conditions to deal with and yet who did not let those conditions limit them. Same conditions, yet no limitations. Now let’s make it really personal. What limits you? Make a list of whatever you think are things that are limitations in your life. Now you can begin to explore or wonder if anyone else on this planet has ever had a similar limitation to what you have and yet did not let it limit them.

In NLP this premise arises from the fact that we do not operate on the territory as we move through life or through the world, we operate only on our map of the territory. Some people develop a map that “learning is hard,” that “I’m just not a good learner,” that “learning is boring.” With that mental map you can guess with pretty good odds how they will then relate to the experience of learning. That mental map generates a limiting belief and a limiting understanding. Then living long enough from those
limitations, one would also develop more-a limiting identity, limiting
metaphors, limiting perceptions, etc.

So here is a transformative question to consider:

What if all of your limitations were limitations, not in the world, but in your maps of the world? If you take this on for a day, how would you re-envision your life experiences?

It seems that there are so many conditions of life that most of us are so very quick to label a limitation. Whether it is lack of money, lack of caring parents, lack of schooling, the misfortune of being mugged, raped, imprisoned, etc. there are others who have experienced a similar condition and who did not let it limit them. They refused to map an external challenge as a personal limitation. It could have been a devastating prison experience such that Viktor Frankl experienced in a Hitler Concentration camp. It could have been a more regular prison like Nelson Mandela. It could have been a rape such as Oprah experienced, or deaf and blindness, or
whatever. But the conditions were not mapped as a personal limitation. And so they were not.

What does this mean? It does not mean that “we create reality.” That’s far too big of a jump of logic. An over-generalization like that is unfounded. We do not create reality, but we do create our sense of reality. That is, we create how we experience life and the quality of our life.

It is in this sense that our meaning-making operates as such a creative power in our lives. This brings us back to the magic and wonder and power of language. It brings us back to the neuro-linguistic effects of languaging or mental mapping in our lives. Precisely because meaning is not given, you and I, as meaning-makers have the power to invent what a thing, event, or condition is to ourselves. And as we do, we then endow it with various degrees and qualities of significance.

You and I can over-load things with too much meaning- meanings that it cannot bear. This is the source of addictions. We can just as well under-load things so that it is not meaningful enough for us so we end up feeling bored. And we can create distorted meanings which then generates distorted relationships to things thereby messing up how to think or feel or handle something. This explains why, in Neuro-Semantics, we begin almost everything by examining the ecology of the meanings that we attribute to

Does it work for you?

Does it empower you as a person?

Does it enhance your life?

Does it serve your overall well-being?

Does it unleash your best potentials for being your very best?

While meaning is not inherently given, we live in a social world where others who have come before us have created meanings, meanings that we inherit by virtue of being born in that society. But the meanings given may not be serving us well in the long run. The meanings may, in fact, create all sorts of distortions and dysfunctions and undermine our well-being. So we begin by checking out the meanings attributed. And that puts us in a
position of choice whereby we can change things. We can change our sense of reality by asking,

What would be the very best meaning that I could invent and give to this or that experience? The very best meaning so that instead of experiencing something as a personal limitation, I frame it as simply something to be dealt with?

This is the foundation of all personal, social, and organizational

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

Neuro-Semantics Executive Director

Neuro-Semantics International